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Deschutes County, Bend officials discuss business reopening plans

Many retailers can reopen Friday, under restrictions; others await state approval of county plans

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With many Central Oregon businesses eager to reopen following Gov. Kate Brown’s three-phase plan, the challenge they face is how to do so safely and as soon as possible, many starting this Friday

During a Monday webinar hosted by the Bend Chamber, the question came up as to how different types of businesses will each have to figure out their own plan for reopening.

Gov. Kate Brown’s recently announced plan says many smaller retailers statewide can reopen Friday, following physical distancing and other guidelines, while other businesses such as restaurants and personal services will await state approval of county plans to enter Phase 1, also as soon as Friday. Guidance for employers also was posted late last week.

There are different guidelines for restaurants, personal services and shopping centers. In all categories, employees and business owners are expected to continue enforcing social distancing measures after the business reopens.

The plan says to some extent, salon owners can consider checking clients’ temperatures and require them to book appointments ahead of time. In shopping malls, the plan says staff should encourage one-way traffic flow through entrances and exits.

Emily Freeland, a Deschutes County environmental health specialist, said businesses don't need any specialized equipment or chemicals to keep people safe.

“If you have bleach, soap, water and some of the masks you’re required to provide for your employees, then you probably only need those things,” Freeland said.

It is not just retail stores and personal services preparing for reopening. Officials said they expect guidelines for summer camps, children’s programs, and schools to come out later this week. 

Annette Liebe, Central Oregon’s regional coordinator for the governor’s office, said she expects schools to resume in-person classes in the fall.

“The Oregon Department of Education is already working closely with schools as to what changes might be necessary in order to ensure physical distancing as children do go back to school next fall,” Liebe said. “I will also share that the governor made the comment that we always hoped to reduce class size, but this is not the way we hoped to get there.”

The governor’s plan said all regions can expect to stay in Phase 1 for a minimum of 21 days, to be sure there's no surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Officials said reaching Phase 3, allowing larger gatherings and the like, may not be possible until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is made available.

To help offset reopening costs for small businesses, donors of the Oregon Community Foundation are offering the Boost Up Bend grant. The application period for the grant is began Monday and ends May 19.

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.


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